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Just putting it out there; I want to coach a wrestler in strength and nutrition.



That's my dream at this point of my life.

I've done pretty much everything else I wanted to do already. I've been a professional coach for 10 years, which was my dream. I've played guitar on six or... wait is it seven albums now? There's a new one as of last week. I always wanted to semi-retire early to a little place with not too many people, ideally within sight of Wilson's Promontory National Park and put my own private strength gym together on site... and I did that just under two year ago as well.

As a coach I've ... well... I've coached fitness enthusiasts, martial artists, strength athletes, endurance athletes, personal trainers and fitness instructors, nutritionists, dietitians, doctors and other health professionals. Usually what I do is take people OFF restrictive diets that are making them miserable, and I get them on the right track with better training programs and fueling strategies for better results that they can maintain and continue to build upon for life.

But what I have yet to do is coach a pro wrestler.

Which now that I think of it... I used to see a lot of wrestlers at Doherty's Gym while I ran my PT business there. But of course... you know, people are there to train, not to have some PT try to ingratiate himself to them and sell a program, right?

First of all though for the uninitiated, let's clear something up before we continue; yes, it is indeed "all fake".


Here's the thing about that though.
You ever watch an action film with a big fight scene? Also fake.
Maybe a knife fight, or a gun fight. People literally dodging bullets, jumping through the air defying gravity and the laws of physics, CGI effects and what not? Also fake. Maybe you thought light sabers existed though, I don't know.

Actually I just googled "how long does it take to film a fight scene" and the answer seems to be anything from 5 hours to 10 days.

So... ok... rather than that, go out and do it live in one take. No CGI, green screen, or other digital effects, no post production editing, no "cut, go again". Do it live in front of an audience who will quickly devolve into real life versions of the Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons if you botch a few spots. Or if their favourite doesn't win. Or if their favourite wins too often.

Look, if you can suspend your disbelief when a TV show puts a dozen women into a mansion or an island and tells them "the prize you are competing for is the love of this male over here" and all the women immediately decide "I love him so much I will be devastated if he chooses someone else"... or for for that matter when a politician speaks on the news or whatever... then you don't get to FUCKEN judge me for watching wrestling, alright?

That said... as a fan, for every time you're thinking "now THIS is a match I'd show to someone who wanted to know why I like this stuff" there's probably 2 or 3 times when you're thinking "thank GOD I don't have a guest here right now" as well. But you know... it's our thing even though it's a bit silly sometimes and even if (especially in my case) we're way too old for it and should have grown out of it a long time ago. It's ok if other people don't get it. I don't get those "two strangers get married for some reason" shows. God how atrocious. What a time to be alive.

Anyway though. WRESTLING.


Modern era wrestling has some of the best athletic performances in memory. There's been a return of more technical styles with legitimate holds and fluent chain wrestling, and more high flying acrobatic action particularly with the return of the cruiserweight divisions. Hands down the biggest change in recent years is the evolution of the women's wrestling. Which brings us to this article, as I mostly tend to coach women.

Here's the thing about coaching female athletes, in my experience.


They aint eating enough.
Non competitive fitness enthusiasts? They also aint eating enough.
Qualified professionals in fitness, nutrition, or other health vocations? They aint eating enough.
People trying to lose weight? Usually the amount they think they should be eating is also entirely insufficient which is why they tend to end up in a cycle of restriction and excess. Because you can't stick to what's insufficient, and it fucks up both your metabolism AND your relationship with food and eating.

Now... when I started out 10 years ago people didn't really get this stuff.
When I started out, it was "you can't out run a bad diet and if you don't eat clean you can't get results", and some time after that, it was "you just have to be in caloric deficit, and if you're not seeing fat loss you need fewer calories and more activity".

The first of those statements is entirely garbage. The second is kinda sorta on the right track but also garbage.

More recently a few more people are starting catch on and there's a little more of an awareness of the risks of Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (aka RED-S). So that's nice. The medium to long term consequences of RED-S include amenorrhoea, osteoporosis and osteopenia, usually preceded by binge eating disorders and (not always but far too often) bulimia. They used to refer to this as "the female athlete triad". Honestly, it's starting to become prolific in males as well... especially since this nonsense "fasting" fad caught on over the past couple of years.

Something else that a client explained to me is the conflicting feelings and the sense of guilt over... you know... believing in body positivity and in celebrating size diversity, never wanting any other woman to suffer from poor body image or feel pressured to diet harder to a smaller size, lower weight, or leaner condition... but at the same time having that feeling of "for how much I train and for how little I eat I should be more shredded than this", right?

So... that's in general but let's talk wrestling. Or more specifically let's talk about what I would have in mind when coaching a pro wrestling superstar.


I always think of... I think it was the first season of Tough Enough. It was a long time ago and I've been hit in the head a lot since and also there was that thing with the carbon monoxide poisoning last year so sometimes my recollection of things is a little off... but I feel like it was the first season of Tough Enough, and they had all these legit athletes (aka not just body builders or swimwear models) trying out, and a few saying "my cardio is going to set me apart". Then they get told to run the ropes... and dudes start dropping like flies, puking, the works. All thoroughly mystified and demoralised like "I don't get it, i thought I was so fit from my sport".

So I watch some instagram stories of wrestlers who I follow in training... running the ropes, leapfrog, repeat, repeat, repeat. Fast paced, too. I dunno exactly how much time is spent like that but to my observation that is a cut above and more physically demanding than most forms of athletic training or your standard sort of HIIT drill. You need to account for this on top of the strength training when calculating an energy intake target.

Now... people come in different heights and different sizes. Some will be lean and in athletic shape in a more petite condition and a lower healthy body mass. Others will see leanest and healthiest athletic condition at a higher body mass relative to height. For some being especially lean is not the priority anyway. Either way is fine but we must account for this when calculating an intake target. The more naturally petite athlete probably does not need to (although she may desire to) "bulk" to a higher body mass. More importantly the taller athlete with a natural proclivity towards more muscle density should not be trying to diet down to a low body mass even if that body mass might not be unhealthy for someone else. We need to have this in mind when calculating an energy intake target.

We talked about the "caloric deficit" above.


This theory is mostly true. It doesn't really matter what foods you prefer, so long as your daily energy intake is not excessive, and protein is adequate.

However, and with that said... you do require an adequate total energy intake, and an insufficient one isn't going to cut it. And when you take 4 or 6 serious strength training sessions per week in the gym with some level of proficiency and prowess at the big lifts, and you add wrestling training on top of that, and assuming a taller and more muscular young woman... the potential for "not being in deficit" is fairly unlikely. For a shorter woman with a more petite build... I mean it's not inconceivable but if you take level of activity into account you will still have some quite reasonable numbers to work to.

What the average jabroni trying to pass themselves of as some kind of "macros coach" usually doesn't get is the Constrained Model Of Energy Expenditure. Which means... if you're highly active with some proficiency at productive strength training and attempting to restrict to 1400 calories per day to "stay in deficit"... the reason you might cease to see leaner condition is absolutely not because "1400 is your maintenance and you need to slash further to get back into deficit", but because the body adapts to somehow cope with the workload without expending the energy that it would under normal circumsances. Also refered to as Adaptive Thermogenesis. But when you put more energy in, you're then able to expend more energy. It does not mean "1400 is maintenance and 1600 would be bulking", right?

How most of these chumps out there seem to calculate calorie targets is to choose a too low BMI to begin with, not account for activity at all much less a high AMOUNT or high QUALITY of activity at a high LEVEL of athletic prowess, and then slash 500 calories from that and tell you "you're lying" when the shit doesn't work and ruins your life, am I right?

When fueled more adequately, you're able to expend more energy at training, which means you set new personal bests on your big lifts more regularly. When fueled more adequately, you also expend more energy throughout the day just moving about with a bit more of a spring in your step and in a better mood. When you're more adequately fueled, you're able to recover from and adapt to training with the creation of more lean mass rather than it all coming at the expense of your bone density. Also when you approach this strategically, you build a healthy appetite for higher and more optimal levels of energy provision rather than feeling like you are force feeding yourself... that's the other crucial aspect that I honestly don't think anyone else gets.

The best thing for all people is to get into a productive form of training for enjoyment and with their long term physical and mental health in mind. It is a tragedy that for so many people, what should be one of the best things that adds so much quality and a positive direction to your life becomes the very opposite, because of that "dieting" mentality that we're conditioned towards. In highly active people and especially in athletes with a more advanced level of physical prowess, best physical athletic condition will come with a healthy appetite, a healthy relationship with food and with eating, and while working closer to a more adventurous estimate of the highest energy intake you can benefit from, rather than the most conservative estimate of the lowest energy intake you can struggle to get by on.

Anyway this kind of turned into the same as every other entry I ever wrote on this blog about how over restriction is bad and no one else is as good at macros as I am. But geez how good would it be to work with a pro wrestler towards some really suitably optimal intake targets, see her get happy and strong, do some fun social media stuff, decorate my private gym with some memorabilia, and live vicariously a little from my off grid doomsday compound here at the edge of the Earth?
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Too depressed to eat?

Recently I've had a few conversations with people I know and also happened to see some other discussions on social media about depression and appetite loss. Particularly in more active fitness enthusiasts and serious athletes, this is obviously a serious concern.


First Of All

I want to start out by emphasising that nothing in this entry is intended to come across like "well, you'll just need to eat. Why can't you just eat some of this, there's nothing hard about it" the way you might have been a little apprehensive about. Believe me, I get it. I probably get it better than anyone. When you're depressed, being told "just do it, what's so hard about it?" is the opposite of helpful. While you're at it "just try to cheer up" too, am I right? Ugh.

I know it's simple. I know there's nothing hard about it. I know it's what I need to do. I still can't do it, because my mental health is fucked. You think I don't know all of this and feel even worse about it already?

Like I said. I get it, alright? I have reason to get it.
Also with my history of Avoidant / Restrictive Food Intake Disorder, I get it better than ANYONE that "you'll just have to eat, why can't you just eat it?" is an infuriating attitude to be on the wrong end of.

That said... there might be a few things you could do, which would be better than not doing them.

Our task is to find what those things are.
And always remember... a little bit better is always worth doing if you possibly can. Even if it's still a long way from perfect, a little bit better is a lot better than a little bit worse. It's totally worth doing even if your depression might be trying to tell you otherwise.


Second Of All

I always advise that "there are no bad or unhealthy foods" in the attempt to be adequately nourished vs being under nourished. The same is true in pursuit of more optimal energy intakes on a sports nutrition basis vs falling short of an adequate energy intake. This is why I make a point of doing social media posts where I'm eating a donut, for example. Also it pisses off the pretentious food snobs out there, and that's kind of a hobby of mine.

In this case though... "optimal energy intake on a sports nutrition basis" isn't a luxury we're concerned with. We just want to get somewhere closer to a not insufficient level of energy intake and nourishment.

In this circumstance, any food is better than an absense of food. However... let's be realistic here. If I say "literally all choices are good choices, just get those calories in no matter what" and so you eat three massive bags of chips or something, you might benefit from the energy intake, but you'll likely feel like crap from too much salt, and not enough nutrients, and so on. A small bag might fit into the plan somewhere though if it does take your fancy now that I mentioned it.


So, here are some suggestions... intended to be of the "could you possibly?" variety. 


If you read any of them and kind of sigh to yourself and say "well yeah I could do that. I'm still going to be depressed though and it's still not very good" then... look, just go with the "yeah I could do that" part. It doesn't have to change everything. In fact... that's probably the attitude to have about it; "it's not going to change everything but yeah I'll do it anyway".

So... could you possibly eat 40 grams of mixed nuts per day? How about most days?

I started with the nuts because it's not even a meal. It's like, a handful and a half. Not something you have to spend any time preparing, or even sit down to eat, or clean up after. And the nutrient value is... it's up there, man. There are all manner of long term health benefits associate with regular consumption of nuts. In our case though... energy and nutrients on a daily basis is what we're interested in, and assuming you have no allergies, nuts are a great start. There's actually some evidence that the anti-oxident phytochemicals in nuts can protect against depressive symptoms. I don't want to promise too much about that, but feeling better nourished and feeling a little more positive about having practiced some self care in the form of a nutritious snack... that's better than nothing, right?

Assuming that's a possibility that you can entertain, we would have gone at least some of the way to meeting your energy, nutrient, and fibre needs.


What else would be beneficial though?

Obviously we're interested in protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals, and a not insufficient total energy intake across the course of the day.

In pursuit of this... particularly in more active people... caring about other people's pretentious ideas about what your food choices should look like is counter productive. There's nothing wrong with a big bowl of cereal if that's something you could see yourself having. There's nothing wrong with a protein shake either, and if you can consider blending a banana, some coconut, peanut butter or other high energy density options into it... that'll definitely get you closer to a suitable energy provision for the day.

I always tell my fitness enthusiast clients; "ice cream is a highly beneficial strategic choice" when we're trying to stimulate a little more appetite in pursuit of a more optimal daily intake rather than a merely adequate energy intake. Because feeling like you are force feeding youself is not a lot of fun, but we do consistently find that when you start to get those energy intakes up closer to where they need to be, the human body kind of gets the idea, sparks that appetite response, and lets you know that it could benefit from getting the same amount (or a little more), more regularly.

We do need to keep a little perspective on this, because getting into the habit of over consumption of nutrient sparse foods on a regular basis isn't in our best intersets. But when the situation is that we're active, with little appetite, and not in the habit of eating much or anything at all... however we can work on getting some more regular, more appropriate levels of energy intake is a good thing. Actual meals are more ideal, but they don't have to be fancy or pretentious. Beans on toast, eggs on toast, french toast, hummus & avocado on toast... not very fancy but all highly nourishing options with minimal effort involved. But if none of that is going to happen right now, just stick to what you can make happen until maybe you start to feel like you can do a little more.

The rest is the same as for anyone under normal circumstances, or especially under A/RFID circumstances. If there's a fruit or vegetable that you could imagine yourself enjoying, work on making that happen more regularly. A potato definitely counts, although I always suggest keeping it out of the deep fryer if you can.

Hopefully at this point, you have an idea or two of things you can start to implement.

Even if it still doesn't feel like you have "a healthy diet", and even if it doesn't make whatever other issues you're battling against go away... it's worth doing. If doing it does give you at least one thing to feel a little more positive about, that's great. But if it doesn't, it's still worth doing.

Even if you don't feel like you can quite start to make anything happen right away... just keep this filed away in the back of your mind and one day it'll feel a little more doable.


Addendum:

Listen up though because this is a unique set of circumstances. 

I am writing this with a specific set of circumstances in mind, and in fact I actually have particular individuals in mind who I know to be in these circumstances.

There will be people in other circumstances who for example have just gotten into a bad habit of skipping meals throughout the day, working through lunch, then being ravenous and over eating in the evening. Depression may also play a part in this, but in these cases the best advice is to acknowledge that you need to practice good self care, take your breaks at work, and have some suitable meals across the course of the day.

This is a different circumstance to what is being addressed in this entry and you should not interpret any of this like "this guy Dave says it's ok to skip meals and I can just make up the difference with 3 bowls of ice cream at 9pm because food is food and all food is healthy", alright?

Good self care with reasonable choices of meals and snacks across the course of the day and perhaps just a little serve of ice cream later on is a good plan for most people to aspire to.

Also to any of the creeps who always monitor my content for anything they can possibly complain about like "he's telling depressed people it's ok to eat junk! he should be telling them they need to go on this highly restrictive healthy diet with no carbs or enjoyment instead, or else it's their own fault that they're depressed" just fkn save it man I still don't care what you fucking idiots think.

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The Benefits and The Perils of Intermittent Fasting

I've had a few conversations about IF lately and as you're probably aware... it's not something I usually recommend.

However... if you're someone who's always struggled with your eating habits and a part of the reason for that is something like "I don't like eating breakfast, I don't particularly like breakfast foods, and I don't feel inclined to prepare one of the meals I do like at 5am when I have to be up and ready for work"... you might be very relieved & reassured to learn that you don't actually HAVE TO eat breakfast at all.

Otherwise, that's the start of your problems, right?

You're trying to get it together and adopt healthier eating habits, but it's only 7am and you've already blown it by failing to eat breakfast like you're supposed to. Well, maybe you can try again next Monday since today is already a write-off.

Forget all that. The CONVENIENT TRUTH is... if you don't want to eat anything until noon, that's fine. But you will need to have a substantial lunch that goes a significant way to towards meeting your energy requirements. Individual requirements vary but you probably want to be thinking 600 - 800 calories for that meal alone.

NEGLECTING to eat breakfast and then trying to get by on a LIGHT lunch is probably going to end badly, but PREFERRING to not eat first thing in the morning and having a SUBSTANTIAL lunch instead could be the beginnings of a suitable & sustainable plan towards long term appropriate eating habits and improved health.

The PROBLEM with "Intermittent Fasting" as a concept though is that it is often presented in a manner that suggests that it is admirable, preferable, virtuous and beneficial to go as long as possible without eating, as a vehicle towards eating as little as possible. In other words, as a proto-anorexic, restrictive fad diet. As if we needed one more of those, am I right?

It is helpful to know that it is not necessary to eat on any schedule other than the one that happens to best suit your personal preferences and schedule. However, this is just as true about “time restricted” eating as it is to “traditional” meal schedules, and if you happen to be someone who likes to eat a bowl of cereal, a slice of toast, or whatever other reasonable choice to start your day... there’s little reason if any to feel obliged to attempt to delay eating until later.


So if Intermittent Fasting is a vehicle towards more confident and consistent eating habits to an appropriate total energy and nutrient intake... that’s good! If it’s a vehicle towards restricting to insufficient intakes, and particularly when it presents such disordered eating as a good and virtuous thing that is beneficial to health, then obviously that’s entirely not good. I hear from a lot of people who may or may not have issues around eating to begin with, who report that what started as "Intermittent Fasting" ended in a prolonged and destructive cycle of restriction and binge eating. That's... that's really not something we want to see happening to people.

Context is everything.

Benefits Specific And Exclusive To Intermittent Fasting.

I keep getting told that I obviously have a poor understanding and am ignorant to the benefits of Intermittent Fasting. Well... it does seem unlikely that I’d ever be wrong about anything related to nutrition (it certainly hasn’t happened so far), but I am always happy to learn.

When people have eating habits that are inappropriate in terms of excessive energy intakes, poor protein & micronutrient provisions, OR erratic shifts between insufficient (due to restriction or neglect) and excessive total intakes... going on ANY diet tends to result in improved health markers in the short term due to more structured eating habits of a not excessive energy intake, with or without weight loss. This is true even of highly misguided diets that omit beneficial choices and likely to result in health complications over the long term.
The benefits people report and credit to Intermittent Fasting occur for the same reason, and not due to delayed and time restricted eating. To prove otherwise, you would require one group of people on a time restricted eating protocol, with the same exercise habits, total energy, protein & fibre intakes as another group eating their meals across the course of the day.

I have been asking people to make me aware of any studies of this nature which found a benefit exclusive to fasting that people eating on a more traditional schedule are missing out on... and so far no one has been forthcoming.

Conversely, this study found that autophagic signalling was activated by exercise in both a continuously fed group and a group following a 36 hour fasting protocol. "Autophagy" being one of the main buzzwords being thrown around as a benefit of fasting protocols.


Further, this study on 5:2 style Intermittent Fasting found poorer long term adherence and poorer outcomes over 12 months compared to working to the same energy intakes on a daily basis. Note too that in this study people got to choose whether to trial the fasting or non fasting approach, rather than having it assigned to them.


In any case... as always... the same as when it was paleo, the same as when it was low carb high fat, low carb healthy fat, ketogenic, and so on and so on... what’s important is that people work on SUSTAINABLE habits based on their own preferences and requirements. You require enough energy to fuel an active lifestyle, enough protein, enough fibre, vitamins and minerals. There’ll be any number of combinations of meal and snack choices, and any number of meal & snack schedules that will facilitate this... but we’re all individuals and rather than working to someone else’s arbitrary set of rules, we need to PRACTICE working to our individual requirements with our individual preferences, on our individual schedules... and we should have the confidence to be able to adjust as necessary whenever our circumstances change.

There have always been fad diets and people who’ve been sucked in by them insisting it has to be done “this specific way” for reasons other than “more consistently adequate but not excessive energy with adequate protein, fibre & micros”, but they have always been wrong, and they’ll always be wrong.
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OK, But Did You Really Ever Feel Like You Were In Your Comfort Zone?

I've had the idea for this graphic in mind for a little while now, and I finally got around to making it the other day. Shortly after, I realised I'd covered this topic about a half dozen times on facebook over the years already.

I suppose the reason for that is that so much of what goes around on social media seems to be on rotation, whether by the same people or new people. Therefore, if you do an image search on "comfort zone", you'll see a bunch of similar images. Similar to each other, that is. Mine is different.

You know the images I'm thinking of, right?
"Here's your comfort zone, now here's where all the magic happens"... variations on that theme. Nothing happens without stepping outside your comfort zone, apparently.

I don't think that's quite right.
For one thing, I don't think people are comfortable to begin with.
For another thing, a lot of these graphics suggest there's "your comfort zone" and then there's "outside the comfort zone" which is where good things happen. For a lot of people, that sounds more like "the panic zone", am I right?

Anyway check out my improved version below.


Like I touched on earlier... it seems to me that a lot of people are confusing "the comfort zone" for something more like "the stagnation zone". When you're frustrated and you feel like you're not getting anywhere and something needs to change... that's not comfort, right?

So, we're actually more comfortable doing something than doing nothing.
But we also do have a quite sensible level of apprehension about feeling overwhelmed and out of our depth, which is what often does keep us stagnant. To my way of thinking, this is why the suggestion that you need to get out of your comfort zone doesn't help.

What I'm trying to suggest is that there's a lot of productive middle ground between doing nothing, and being stressed out trying to do everything all at once, before you're ready for it.

So, your comfort zone actually is doing something.

The progress zone is doing something a little more meaningful, a little more consistently.

In my graphic, I deliberately tried to suggest that it’s a bit of blur and the comfort & progress zones kind of overlap, but to keep making progress you want to get comfortable with doing more, and do more of what you're comfortable with.

What I suggest here though is, if you aint pushing forward, you're going to slip backward. Always be looking to be comfortable with pushing further into the progress zone. What I've attempted to describe before is standing right in the middle of that zone, taking a step forward to do what it takes to make further progress, and then the whole bubble shifts with you so that that's now where you're comfortable, until it's time to take another step forward.

What you'll also notice is a strong barrier between the progress zone and the danger zone. This is for two reasons;

One, you don’t need to do more than you’re comfortable with before you’re comfortable with it.
Two, for a lot of us sometimes once we’re started we need to exercise a little restraint before we start pushing too hard and risk burning out. Especially if we have a history of taking a good thing like pursuing an interest in exercise and practicing mindful eating habits, and taking that to a destructive extreme.
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Specific Goals Require Specific Approaches

More specific goals require more specific actions, approaches, and strategies.

What most people want is some variation on the theme of get stronger, build muscle, lose fat, enjoy what you're doing and feel good about yourself.

That's a fine goal well worth pursuing. But it is actually quite a generic goal. Any decent strength based program with enough of the good stuff will take you a long way towards it. Even a merely half-decent program will take you a long way compared to being inactive.

CONSISTENCY matters though.

If you consistently train from 4 to 6 times per week, you can expect more consistent progress, and to progress further in less time. You'll have a higher energy requirement and more margin for variance as well.

If you intend to train 4 times a week but more often only make it a couple of times... you can't expect the same level or consistency of progress, or to have as high an energy requirement or margin for variance.

So... my observations:

1. People often want to produce a drastic change in condition and appearance without wanting to commit to the intention of turning up consistently enough, &/or working to a suitable strategy. AKA "here's what I want to do and how often I'm prepared to do it, but I won't even do that unless you promise me I'll lose this amount of weight within this amount of time".

In which case... life's not like that.

You need to decide that you're going to do what it actually takes, as often as it actually takes. Otherwise go find someone else who's desperate enough for your money to put up with your shit, you get me?

2. People sometimes have the INTENTION of doing what it takes as often as it takes, but for various reasons it doesn't just doesn't pan out that they're quite so consistent quite so often.

In which case... life's like that sometimes.

Even if you're not quite able to see those changes in condition and appearance, showing up when you can is still of benefit, and is still setting you up for the best chance of good health and a good quality of life as you get older.

Therefore it's better to feel good about what you are doing than to beat yourself up for not doing more. Otherwise you only end up doing less, am I right?

That said though... don't be one of these people who wants and sulks about not being able to have the outcome, when the only thing stopping them is that they simply refuse to adopt the strategy and work consistently towards it.

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